Interview with Dr. Michele Borba on parenting tweens, Part II: Answering reader questions

Interview with Dr. Michele Borba on parenting tweens, Part II: Answering reader questions

Yesterday, I shared Part I of my interview with Dr. Michele Borba, my favorite parenting expert and author whose approach I greatly admire. Before I spoke with her, I asked on the Tween Us Facebook page if readers had any questions that they'd like me to ask Dr. Borba, and readers offered up serious parenting challenges. Dr. Borba graciously took the time to answer them and tackled them head on with her trademark succinct, helpful advice.

Here's Part II of my interview of with Dr. Michele Borba.

Tween Us: One reader asked, "How should our tweens handle a situation where they may see a friend (or someone they may know, but may not be close friends with) posting about harming themselves online?"

Dr. Michele Borba: It's a sad commentary on life today that this is an issue. Parents need to know that 75% of children tell a peer before committing suicide.

Parents need to have a conversation with their child at an early age called "reporting vs. tattling." It's important to use reporting to keep people safe and out of trouble, whereas tattling is just trying to get someone into trouble.

Parents should tell kids to use your heart and say, "If you are worried about someone, then you should act on your empathy. Come tell a parent and we will see what we can do."

kids need a safety netThat is far better and different than tattling to get someone in trouble. Reporting is important, and it is better to be safe than sorry.

You want to give your child permission to tell you, and you want to give it to them early on.  You want to think [something like self-harm] won’t be an issue at age 10, but it's happening with younger and younger kids.

This is a bottom line message that works with with both instance of threats of self-harm or suicide, and also with issues like peer pressure and bullying. As parents, you want kids to come to you.

Kids need a safety net, and that’s an adult.

TU: Another parents writes, "I'm kind of struggling with how to get it through my 14 year old's head that texting about sex is not ok, also trying to figure out how to talk to him about not reducing women to body parts."

MB: We need to do more talking to our kids about dispelling stereotypes, we need to do it soon and do so early, because children start to form their world view early. It isn't just talking about gender, either, but also other -isms like race and age.

One simple way to address the issue is “check that." It's saying to a child, "Let’s think about how that’s not true." Talking about how that is not true of all girls, asking kids to give an instance where that’s not true. Make the child tune into their own biased views.

When you keep doing that, what happens is that kids start saying "check that," too, and sometimes they say it to you, which is a great learning opportunity.

The other part of the issue here is determining where is this viewpoint coming from.

First, what are your kids watching on TV?

The media is very focused on appearance and looks as opposed to inside qualities. That's very damaging to our kids, particularly our tweens, who start focusing on appearance, dress size, certain brands, and such.

Second, what are you saying?

For example, it's not uncommon that when we watching Oscars that we focus not on a woman's amazing performance, but on what she's wearing.

Third, who are your kids hanging around with?

Parents have got to work on it more quietly and subtly and consistently. Stay at it.

TU: Is civic involvement something that's important for tweens and teens? How important is volunteering at this age?

MB: It is absolutely critical.

What we parents often do wrong in terms of volunteering is encouraging our kids to do it because it looks good on resume or volunteering at the food pantry around the corner because it is close. Instead, we should look at it as teaching our kids three things:

      1. When kids volunteer, they learn that they can make a difference with their hearts.
      2. Volunteering teaches kids empathy.
      3. It's a chance to find his cause, connect with his natural passion and what interests him.

Kids who are change makers see a need and figure out how to fulfill it. Volunteering starts a spiral for child because it opens the door for perspective, and when they realize that they can use their heart to change things, they continue doing so for the rest of their lives. DR. MICHELE BORBA

We are hitting our kids with gloom and doom stories and those take down optimism and hope. Parents need to expose our kids to kids who are making a difference. We need to make sure our kids see those good stories.

The good stuff is never in the front of the newspaper, but rather it is in back.  I love it when parents cut out the positive stories and share them with their kids at night.

Showing our kids other kids who are heroes is simple and glorious. They need to hear about Malala. If you need more positive stories, check out kidsareheroes.org.

We don't want to contaminate our kids' views with negativity. We must show them that kids are great and humane. We need to give them hope for the future.

You can find Part I of my interview with Dr. Michele Borba here.

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